Kathy Newcomb, an alternate member of Tualatin’s transportation task force, is a retired CPA and retired state auditor.

It was good to read the various Times’ stories about the Southwest Corridor’s light-rail and bus transit options. They illustrate changes and problems that have arisen in the Southwest Corridor process. Unfortunately on July 22, the corridor committee chose two transit locations that will not be at all helpful for Tualatin — Hall Boulevard and 72nd Avenue.

First problem: Until February 2013, light rail or “bus rapid transit” were included for Highway 99W from Portland straight to Sherwood as a Southwest Corridor option. This would have been excellent for Tualatin and for our enormous industrial area bordering 99W. It might have helped also with transit for the huge proposed industrial area south of Tualatin.

Unfortunately, that option was deleted beginning in February.

One segment — Portland to Tigard — still seems reasonable: Basically, south on 99W via Barbur Boulevard to Tigard Transit Center off Tigard’s Main Street in Old Town.

Your July story referred to “the line connecting Tigard and Tualatin,” and “the two options” still being considered for a decision on July 22. Here’s a description of those two light-rail or bus rapid transit options: Both options run from Tigard Transit, either along Hall Boulevard or 72nd. Both curve more or less south. Both aim primarily toward the Tualatin Park and Ride south of Bridgeport Village and perhaps toward Tualatin’s “downtown.” Drawbacks: There is already an existing, excellent No. 76 bus service on Hall Boulevard. The new options provide little value to Tualatin or to commuters, mostly creating huge additional congestion around Tualatin Park and Ride and adding to I-5 evening overflow on Boones Ferry Road to downtown Tualatin.

Second problem: Rapid travel is of the highest importance to commuters. But rapid travel is not really a goal for Southwest Corridor planners. Co-Chairman Craig Dirksen argues that of course the goal is for rapid transit — for instance, he explains, consider bus “rapid” transit. I agree totally with him — but the staff planners do not focus on rapid commuter time. For instance, in April or May I pointed out to staffers the lack of rapid travel built into the projects — and was told rapid transit was not a primary goal. In fact, I was personally shown in June that there is nothing about rapid transit in the written goals.

In Tualatin, we have about 19,000 people coming to work in our city, plus another perhaps 10,000 leaving Tualatin to go to work in Portland or to Portland State University, etc. These commuters want rapid travel time. They also prefer convenience and a reasonable cost.

Tualatin’s transit is all on our east side, including four Park and Rides, focusing at the Tualatin Park and Ride. Everyone from everywhere wants to ride the eastside No. 96 commuter bus to Portland! (I rode it myself.) But we in Tualatin do not have even one Park and Ride on our west side at 99W, although the other participating cities have about six altogether.

Without a Park and Ride, we cannot lure people to the No. 94 bus on 99W to relieve congestion on our east side — and especially, to relieve the congestion of single-occupancy vehicles on Tualatin/Sherwood Road (and Tualatin Road — and perhaps even Tigard’s Durham Road). TriMet tells us the rule of thumb for relief of traffic congestion is to get at least 5 percent of the single-occupancy vehicles off our busiest roads. If we are to do that for Tualatin, we need an east-west local bus loop, a Park and Ride on 99W and attractive rapid transit on 99W.

Third problem: The title of the Southwest Corridor project is “High-Capacity Transit.” If all we need is high capacity, then all we need are ordinary articulated buses — not “bus rapid transit,” not light rail. These articulated buses are the same size as articulated “BRT” buses, each holding about 80 people. Ordinary buses hold about 40 people. In fact, before the recession, TriMet made a study of buses in the Metro area that could be upgraded to articulated buses because of their higher capacity.

So where does Tualatin stand? No rapid transit is planned that will be helpful to us on 99W. TriMet’s planned “service enhancement” studies for small towns should be helpful for designing our east-west bus loop (local transit). But the only helpful 99W connection we still have to work with is the long-existing semi-express commuter bus, the No. 94 — not “rapid” transit. It may be better than nothing, but that’s not rapid transit. 

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